Mythologies of neoliberalism: An analysis of Widening Participation to Higher Education
Jackson, Louise Hazel
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Notions of Widening Participation to Higher Education are characterised by perceptions of an inherent "goodness" for (Western) democracy. This is based around a premise that predicates social justice upon access to education to ensure sufficient preparation for successful participation in the Knowledge Economy. This correlation between social justice, Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy can be identified as part of the neoliberal ideology that has underpinned political, economic and subsequent educational policies and practices with a rigorous promotion of the Free Market. This thesis examines Widening Participation as a mechanism through which neoliberal ideology has enabled the development of a market model of Higher Education. To understand this, a range of conceptual apparatus is utilised to reframe the common perceptions of what Widening Participation is and what purpose it has, by establishing Widening Participation as a critical part of the discourse relating to the commodification of Higher Education. The proposition of neoliberal Widening Participation is examined through the lens of Commodity Fetishisation (Marx), Educational Fundamentalism (Alvesson) and Stultification (Rancière). Together, these theories form a framework to understand the narratives surrounding the conceptualisation of Widening Participation within neoliberal ideology. These narratives are argued here to have cultivated expectations for a consumerist student population through the transformation of the perceived benefits of a traditional Higher Education into reified concepts of pedagogical practice. As such, Widening Participation is positioned here as a way in which the saturation of Higher Education was justified as social justice. This Widening Participation positions learners and teachers within a Higher Education that is part of a Debt Economy expressed as a Knowledge Economy. The result is a role for neoliberal Widening Participation in propagating pedagogical myths that Rancière describes as suppressing Intellectual Emancipation even when appearing to be facilitating it.
EdD in Education